Sunday, October 15, 2017

100 Women




Collected from stories of over one-hundred women 


She was young. She was older. She was nineteen. She was thirty. She was fifty-five. She was fresh meat. She was ripe for the pickings. She was no spring chicken.

She was in high school. She was in college. She lived alone. She lived with her girlfriend. She was a single mother. She had a family. She wanted a career. She needed the money. Her husband was on disability. She had to feed her kids.

It was her first job. She was about to retire. She was changing careers. She worked full-time. She worked on weekends. She worked at night. She worked nine to five. She worked for hourly wages. She returned to the work force after becoming a mother.

She worked in the fields. She worked in an office. She traveled across the country. She worked from home. She worked in sales. She worked in a factory. She was a chef. She was an artist. She was a teacher, a programmer, a secretary, a doctor, a waitress, a therapist, a lawyer. She worked in a prison. She was a sergeant in the army.

She had the type of face you’d see on magazine covers. She had her father’s nose. She had a scar above her eye. She had cheeks etched with laugh lines. She was tall and shaped like a tree. She was barely five feet. She was embarrassed of her thighs. She wore sweaters to cover her arms. She wore her hair long. She had a crew cut. She wore her hair in beads. She tied her hair back in a bun. She wore pantsuits. She wore a uniform. She wore a white coat. She wore flip flops and jeans. She came to work made up every day. She came to work fresh-faced in khakis. She wore safety goggles. She wore boots and a toolbelt. She wore little more than nothing.

It was a boys’ club. It was a mixed bag. It was a starter pack. It was millions in. It was just her and him. She was the only woman. He was the only man.

He was charming. He was a prick from the start. He was helpful. He cracked jokes in meetings. He was her age. He was older. He was her father’s friend. He had a wife and children. He had an impeccable reputation. He was highly respected. He was the office sleazebag; everyone knew about him.

He was her boss. He was her co-worker. He was her customer. He was a co-worker. He cleaned the bathrooms. He fixed the machines. He was the president of the company.

It happened only once. It happened repeatedly. It would stop and start again. It happened when they were alone. It was a suggestion. It was a touch. It was a handprint she couldn’t wash off. It was a scream. It was a whisper. It was menacingly quiet. It was a remark about her looks. It was a tug at her skirt. It was a shoulder hug. It was a tap on her desk. It was a phone call. It was an email.

It happened in the office. It happened in the back room. It happened out of town. It was after hours. It was in the parking lot. It was beside the dumpster while they were hauling trash. It was at the annual Christmas party where everyone saw but no one said a thing. It had come out of nowhere. It had been building up. He said he had always wanted to do that. He said he didn’t know what had come over him. He said it must have been the way she was dressed. He said he must have been reading her wrong. He laughed and said she was sending mixed signals.

She didn’t want to believe it. She was ashamed. She didn’t know she could do anything. She just wanted it to go away. She wanted to be seen as tough. She thought it was her fault. She was worried no one would believe her because she wasn’t pretty enough. She was worried about not getting the deal done. She needed the job and was socialized to be silent. She wanted to come across like she could handle anything. She was already made to feel inadequate as a woman in a male dominated industry. She didn’t want to be considered a troublemaker. She was physically afraid of her boss. She had seen what had happened to the other women who had reported him. His wife was pregnant and she didn’t want her to have a miscarriage over the shock. His wife was the only other employee. Her co-workers thought it was funny. She wasn’t the only one, but no one else reported it either.

She asked him to stop. He said no one would believe her. He threatened to get her fired. He threatened to tell her father that she was a slut. He threatened the safety of her unborn baby. The harassment only increased. He said she was imagining things. He said, “You sure do think a lot of yourself!” He said women were too sensitive and couldn’t take a joke. He said she only wished; don’t worry, honey, I won’t fuck a pig.

She sought advice from others. She was told it was just the company culture. They said that’s just how men are. They said, “Oh, he probably likes you.” They said he’s just a friendly guy. They said there was nothing she could do. They said maybe she should leave and find a new job. Move departments. Work from home. She was told she would be labeled a dyke and raped by the prisoners if she complained. She was told to do her job and shut the hell up. She was told to wear different clothes, then maybe he’d lose interest.

She did report it but nothing happened. She was ignored. She was threatened repeatedly. She was fired. She was called a liar. They said it was just the culture. They said it would ruin his life. Her claim was disregarded by the owners of the company because he was making a lot of money for them. They moved her to another department but didn’t fire him. They started cutting back her hours. They treated her like a leper. They made it impossible for her to work there, she was almost forced to quit.

She is retired now. She is still working. She hears men how come forward and say they have daughters and harassment should no longer be happening. She wonders where these men were when this was happening to their wives. She wonders where these men were when it was happening to their mothers. She speaks out now more than ever before. She chooses to remain silent. She talks only to her therapist. She talks only to her minister. She saves the headlines from today’s stories and promises she’ll read them later. She’s walked a hundred miles in other women’s shoes; she’s not afraid to walk a hundred miles farther.


—Erin Passons, 10-15-2017




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